July 06, 2021


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P.S. Re the distinction between a variance and a waiver -- and your claim that you have NOT sought a variance -- the following text is from your June 14, 2021 letter to Christian Murdoch (with bold type supplied by me). Perhaps an apology to Christine for the lecture and for accusing her of "waving a bloody shirt by saying things that are inaccurate" is in order?

Hillside Preservation District

a. Please confirm allowable coverage calculation per PMC Section 9-4.2257 (Tentative Map
Sheet 1). Staff’s calculation indicates zero allowable coverage. If you conclude the same,
please submit materials required for a Variance pursuant to PMC Section 9-4.3401 et seq.

Applicant confirms the Staff’s calculation indicates zero allowable coverage under
PMC Sec. 9-4.2257 and is SEEKING EITHER A WAIVER as of right under Gov. Code Sect.
65915(d)(1) OR A VARIANCE pursuant to PMC Sec. 9-4.3401 et seq. See Tab 5.

John, I am not sure that pointing to the technical legal distinction between a variance and a waiver substantively advances your argument.

The point is that your development appears to be using its moderate-income housing element to both (1) seek a density bonus (meaning build more houses than would otherwise be allowed) and (2) seek a waiver of the HPD in its entirety.

I have reprinted just some of the HPD below, along with a link to the full text. Again, the Planning Dept. docs. seem to indicate that you are requesting a waiver of ALL of Article 22.5, which certainly sounds like you are requesting a total waiver of every provision of the HPD as one of your three “concessions” under Govt. code 6915. In other words, you are not seeking waiver of three elements or provisions of the HPD; you are seeking to waive the entire HPD as a single “concession.”

Is this correct? If not, can you please list the specific provisions of the HPD for which you seek a waiver?

Also, to follow up on your response to my earlier post re the traffic study — you say the study does not depend on highway widening. I DO understand that the figures presented were apparently derived by looking at the actual numbers of cars entering particular intersections, and that those numbers are what they are. The thing is, the study DOES acknowledge that raw numbers do not reflect or address the real-world effect of what it calls the pre-existing “extensive queuing” on Fassler and Highway 1 during peak traffic, then goes on to say that the plans to widen Highway 1 will fix this problem. Take out the widening project and we are left with a report that acknowledges an existing traffic problem that will only get worse, without presenting any solutions.

Select text of the HPD with link to full text:
Article 22.5

Sec. 9-4.2252. - Purpose (HPD).

It shall be the purpose of the Hillside Preservation District to promote the following City objectives which shall be considered as guidelines:

(a) To maximize choice in types of environment available in the City and particularly to encourage variety in the development pattern of the hillsides; (b) The concentration of dwellings and other structures by clustering and/or high rise should be encouraged to help save larger areas of open space and preserve the natural terrain; (c) To use to the fullest current understanding of good civic design, landscape architecture, architecture, and civil engineering to preserve, enhance, and promote the existing and future appearance and resources of hillside areas; (d) To provide density and land use incentives to aid in ensuring the best possible development of the City's natural features, open space, and other landmarks; (e) To encourage the planning, design, and development of building sites in such a fashion as to provide the maximum in safety and human enjoyment while adapting development to, and taking advantage of, the best use of the natural terrain; (f) To preserve and enhance the beauty of the landscape by encouraging the maximum retention of natural topographic features, such as drainage swales, streams, slopes, ridge lines, rock-out-croppings, vistas, natural plant formations, and trees; (g) To prohibit, insofar as is feasible and reasonable, the padding or terracing of building sites in the hillside areas; (h) To provide safe means of ingress and egress for vehicular and pedestrian traffic to and within hillside areas while at the same time minimizing the scarring effects of hillside street construction; (i) Utility wires and television lines shall be installed underground; (j) Outstanding natural physical features, such as the highest crest of a hill, natural rock outcroppings, major tree belts, and the like, should be preserved; (k) Roads should follow natural topography wherever possible to minimize cutting and grading; (l) Imaginative and innovative building techniques should be encouraged to create buildings suited to natural hillside surroundings; and (m) Detailed and effective arrangements shall be formulated for the preservation, maintenance, and control of open space and recreational lands resulting from planned unit development.
It is the intent of this section to discourage the development of ridgelines; however, where a parcel has ridgelines that are the only buildable portion of the property, or where it can be demonstrated that the sensitive development of other portions of such a parcel would significantly frustrate the other purposes of this article, then some development of such ridgelines may be permitted provided most of the ridgeline remains undisturbed, and any such ridgeline development is of low profile, has minimum visual impact, and utilizes a minimum of grading.



Look again at your second document I linked earlier, JK. I would take a screenshot so you don't have to do the work, but I can't post it on this format. It sounds like you're hoping that one of the three options, which include a variance, might stick for not complying with HPD, but have you actually gotten the Planning Department to say they would accept any of them?

My argument is not general, nor is it mudslinging. HPD has a strict formula, and you know it as the allowable disturbance calculation is on your coversheet. I asked you where your actual proposed disturbance calculations are on Facebook and you have still not answered. Go ahead, I can wait.

The coversheet also shows the HPD zoning overlay removed, which would require a citywide vote. It doesn't sound like that is your intention, is it?

You wanted intelligent discussion here; for now I'm just trying to understand this one issue. There is no need for personal attacks.

John, I clearly and directly asked how many YEARS until the community center parking is open. And you gave a reply that clearly never mentions how many years. And yet you applauded yourself for answering the question, and in the same breath cast doubt on my understanding of the answer. The example is a very minor one, John. But you gave an answer without answering the question. It is a tactic you use frequently (is it commonplace in your profession?). But please do not think for a moment that it ever goes unnoticed. It makes your replies quite frustrating to read.


Then you did not read my document. We did not use the word "variance." We did use the word "waiver" and we cited the California Government Code sections as authority for doing so. I did not throw a stone. I pointed out your misrepresentation. This is just one of many mistakes you make publicly, and you mislead and upset people when you do so. You also accuse inappropriately the Planning Department staff, Planning Commission, and City Council of incompetence and malfeasance when they do not agree with your faulty analysis. You really need to consult with a land-use planning attorney before you make your accusations because you clearly do not understand the Pacifica General Plan and Zoning Ordinance.

John, I am quoting from your own documents, whose links I put in the post for all to read themselves. You might want to stop throwing stones in your own glass house.

Coffee spew! I think I just got inadvertently snark shamed!


Here you go again. You are waving a bloody shirt by saying things that are inaccurate. You are doing the same thing on Facebook and Instagram. As a licensed architect, you have a professional responsibility to know the land-use planning laws in the community where you practice. It appears that you do not.

First, neither project is asking for a variance. As a licensed architect, you should know that a variance is a procedure to request a one-time modification to the application of the zoning law to a particular property that has very specific requirements. A variance procedure request has not been made here.

Second, as a licensed architect, you should know that the State of California has passed laws recently that are intended to promote the construction of more affordable housing to relieve a statewide housing crisis. These laws allow a property owner to request from the city certain concessions if the owner commits to constructing affordable housing. The request for a concession is called a waiver. The "waivers" that you are complaining about are provided under state law and are valid and proper.

If you would like help in understanding land use planning laws, I suggest you consult with your legal counsel. If you would like me to explain the laws to you before you post more incorrect information on this or any other forum, please contact me and I will be happy to do so. I am a land-use attorney. You are upsetting people with your misinformation.

Peter George:

Your response is not factually accurate. Please allow me to reply.

"And why do I say you are losing the argument? Because you avoided answering almost all my previous questions:"

I have answered your questions. See responses below.

"* I asked you to publish (or at least describe) the road alignment that will allow for road widening while permitting the residents on the north of Higgins to park in their driveways and not carving through the school on the south side. You didn’t. From which we can assume no such engineering hat trick is possible and you are, in fact, still planning on taking parking from the driveways to the north."

I responded by informing you that your point was valid. I learned this from conversations with some of the neighbors impacted by the design, and will be revisiting the road alignment with my civil engineer.

"* I asked you to tell us how many years until the parking in front of the community center is open. You didn’t."

I responded by telling you that the parking in front of the community center would be constructed at the same time as the loop road and would open when the road was completed."

"* Increased parking demand may not be the *objective* of your promotion of the trails, but it will be the inevitable outcome. So it is your responsibility. Thus, despite you previously saying that your development would not increase parking demand on Higgins, it will. And if your target audience is locals who know the area and new residents (who can’t move in yet), then why are you already promoting the trails on Facebook groups that reach far farther than Pacifica?"

This is a compound question to which I previously responded. First, we are increasing parking by extending Higgins Way to Peralta Road and by providing parking in front of the community center. Second, we are not taking parking away by widening Higgins Way. Second, my target audience is locals. There are already people from outside of Pacifica who are coming to Linda Mar Woods to ride Old San Pedro Mountain Road all the way to Montara. I am not promoting the trails on Facebook. I am responding to attacks from NIMBYs who are saying we intend to close the trails to public use.

"* You still refuse to do even a basic parking study: That refusal speaks for itself."

I responded previously that there is no need for a parking study because we are not taking away any existing parking; we are managing the parking required by the subdivision within our property, and we are adding parking by extending Higgins Way to Peralta Road.

"* And I asked you to confirm if you still expected that an extra car at least every ~30 seconds during peak times was "not an issue" (your words) for the people of Linda Mar. You didn’t."

I responded that I was improving traffic flow in Linda Mar by widening and extending Higgins Way to Peralta Road. In fact, the analogy I made was to the checkout in Safeway. If you add shoppers to the store but do not open up more checkout stations, you end up with shoppers in a long line to pay for their groceries. The solution to the problem is to open more checkout stations and the lines disappear. Same with traffic flow. If you depend only on Adobe Drive to get to Linda Mar Boulevard and you add more cars, you will have a backup. But if you open up Higgins Way and connect it to Peralta Road, you create a second way that easily leads the additional cars and more to Linda Mar Boulevard and actually reduces demand on Adobe Drive.

Please read my responses more carefully. I do try to reply to your questions.


NIMBY is an acronym, not name-calling. As you no doubt already know, it stands for "Not In My Back Yard" and it was coined to describe people who oppose residential development in their community for personal reasons. It is an attitude of "we have ours and you cannot have it." NIMBYs are like the people who favored covenants in deeds that prohibited the sale of homes to people of color. These were intended to keep out the "undesirables." The Supreme Court ruled these to be unconstitutional many years ago. Now the NIMBYs use other tactics to keep people out. NIMBYs are not necessarily racists, although some might be. They just do not want others to buy new homes in their community. Calling out NIMBYs is the right thing to do because what they are doing is bad for the community.

"This forum is for intelligent, respectful public dialogue."

"Nimby" is name calling. But people who aren't getting their way sometimes get upset and forget themselves. Shame on you.

Check out these two new project documents. They’re asking for waivers and variances from our Hillside Preservation Ordinances. Please write to the City Council asking for a public review of these important laws. Even the Planning Commission has been asking for this public discussion at the last three meetings.

I've recently reviewed three projects that the planning staff reports said complied with HPD, but they did not. Those projects are Harmony One Lot 3 and Lot D, and 801 Fassler. While our recent Lot 3 appeal was upheld, some of the comments by council members indicated that this discussion was "not a priority." They are elected to represent us, so if you think this is important, write a letter or speak up during oral communications.



How disappointing, John. You are losing the argument on its merits, so you resort to name calling. Sad – I thought you were above that. No, I don’t live on Higgins, but this area is relatively speaking “my backyard.” I am demonstrably not a NIMBY as I have already stated here that I agree more housing units are needed in California, and I have, for example, no problem at all with your “Meadows” development. What I have a problem with is 125+ units on the top of that hill in a project where you have no serious mitigation strategy for a breathtaking array of impacts on the community (parking and traffic just two of very many). The “Woods” is simply the wrong location for this development. But disturbingly, your stock answer to valid community concerns and to point them to a half-finished website that is practically the very definition of “greenwashing.”

And why do I say you are losing the argument? Because you avoided answering almost all my previous questions:

* I asked you to publish (or at least describe) the road alignment that will allow for road widening while permitting the residents on the north of Higgins to park in their driveways and not carving through the school on the south side. You didn’t. From which we can assume no such engineering hat trick is possible and you are, in fact, still planning on taking parking from the driveways to the north.

* I asked you to tell us how many years until the parking in front of the community center is open. You didn’t.

* Increased parking demand may not be the *objective* of your promotion of the trails, but it will be the inevitable outcome. So it is your responsibility. Thus, despite you previously saying that your development would not increase parking demand on Higgins, it will. And if your target audience is locals who know the area and new residents (who can’t move in yet), then why are you already promoting the trails on Facebook groups that reach far farther than Pacifica?

* You still refuse to do even a basic parking study: That refusal speaks for itself.

* And I asked you to confirm if you still expected that an extra car at least every ~30 seconds during peak times was "not an issue" (your words) for the people of Linda Mar. You didn’t.

Peter George:

Can you tell me whether you live on Higgins Way? My bet is you do not. You write as an advocate for the people living on Higgins Way, but I suspect this is cover for another agenda. I am getting a whiff of NIMBY here. Pull up the ladder behind you.

You mix up parking with traffic. Our solution to parking is to create more of it by keeping the existing on-street parking on Higgins Way, creating more on-street parking by completing Higgins Way from Shamrock Ranch to Peralta Road, and by having even more parking in front of the community center within the neighborhood. No existing parking is being taken away. The community center parking will be constructed when the loop road is built. The road will be the first thing we build. Some mountain bikers will park at the bottom along Higgins Way. Others will park at the top because of the scene that will occur at the community center. It will be where the cool kids hang out to talk about their rides. Some will head southwest on Old San Pedro Mountain Road for McNee Ranch toward Montara State Park and will use the community center as their return point.

As for traffic, we are widening Higgins to city standards to create a proper street with adequate room for vehicles to pass one another and for emergency vehicles to operate. We are also opening up a second path to Linda Mar Boulevard to move traffic along smoothly. Will there be more cars traveling down Higgins Way? Yes. Will the street be engineered to handle it? Yes.

My much-vaunted plan to improve the trails starts with renovating Old San Pedro Mountain Road. Will this increase demand? That is not the objective. The trail is already actively used by people living in Linda Mar. The idea is to provide the people already using the trail with a much nicer and safer experience. The increase in demand will come from the people who move into the development designed on the top of the hill as a recreation-oriented neighborhood. They will want to walk and ride a nice trail as part of the experience. The improvements we are planning will accommodate the increase in local demand.


My proposal is a little more nuanced than you represent. Go to www.lindamarwoods.com to get the whole picture. I do not think you are stupid. But I do think you need to do your homework.

"The forest at Linda Mar Woods has been neglected for decades and the conditions exist for a wildfire as you say. We are in an extended drought and the forest floor is covered in kindling. But the way to address the risk is not to do nothing. It is to initiate forestry management best practices. Many people in the Bay Area think Eucalyptus forests are harmless and must be protected. But our friends in Australia know better from centuries of wildfire experience in Eucalyptus forests. "

Well, sure, eucalyptus are a problem, but only a small part of the overall problem. You propose to clear a large swath of land, build many single-family homes, and have a substandard road as the only access. In the past, certainly you would have gotten away with it, and, considering the low-quality political leadership we have here, you may again. But don't take us as stupid in not recognizing this.

Unfortunately, John, I remain unconvinced that you are not creating a parking nightmare on Higgins & Adobe – at least for several years, if not permanently. The facts are extremely obvious since they are based on your very own words and reports. Almost so obvious as to not need repeating, but just in case:

* If you widen Higgins to the south at all (e.g. to allow the homeowners on the north side enough room to park on their driveways), that puts the road onto the private property of the Montessori school and other parcels. I'm having a really hard time seeing how the widening to the south works, John, without the city buying private property along the south side of Higgins. So please publish these new alignments so all stakeholders can have a look. I'm sure the school especially will be interested -- although you've probably already done the neighborly thing and you are already talking with them, right? Thanks.

* You have a much-vaunted plan to improve the trails and rides in the "woods" area – by which I presume you hope to make them more attractive -- i.e., increase demand. In fact, you are already actively promoting the attractiveness and availability of these trails and rides on numerous social media networks (links available for folks who have not seen this activity on Facebook, etc.). So yes, you are *directly and currently* already increasing parking demand on Higgins, as per your own words.

* As I already pointed out, mountain bikers will not park at the *top* of their rides. Please ask them to confirm this the next time you see them. I request this sincerely because it is a little forecasting I am allowing myself here that is not **directly** based on your own words/plans.

* How long until the parking in front of the community center is even open for business? Five years? Maybe ten? Or at least three, right? So the folks down below have to suffer horrendous parking situations only for those few years, right? Do you "expect" this to be "not an issue," John? Please publish the Gannt chart of the construction project so we can clearly see for ourselves when the parking will open, thanks. I looked through all the plans filed with the City and it was absent.

* Plus an extra car at least every ~30 seconds during peak times as per your very own traffic report. Do you still "expect" all this to "not be an issue" (these are your numbers and your words) for the people of Linda Mar, John?

That's Latin, Darling. Now I really hate him.

Linty Mar:

Regarding snark, res ipsa loquitor.

Ceteris paribus, I much prefer intelligent banter.

This is about as snarky as I allow for myself.

If you do not know what it means, it is Latin, look it up.

John Kontrabecki doesn’t put much stock in something created by the United States Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics – "Average weekday household vehicle trips by U.S. Census Tract (per day) as estimated in Local Area Transportation Characteristics by Household dataset" – because he doesn’t know how they gathered the data.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics website describes the data sources and includes links to the data and the methodology. "The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) developed a model that allows for Census tract estimation using the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) data along with American Community Survey (ACS) data from the Census Bureau."
Methodology for 2017 Local Area Transportation Characteristics for Households
Appendix A - Regression Models Used for Estimating Household Travel
Appendix B - Validation Results
Appendix C - Distribution of Estimated Household Travel
Appendix D - Data Dictionary
Appendix E - Regression Models Used for Estimating Household Travel by Number of Vehicles Available and Household Size

RE: snarky comments on Riptide. "This is not a forum for snarky comments." I guess John Maybury has retired. I've built my entire Riptide persona on snark. Oh the humanity!
Sad Linty

(Editor's Note: Au contraire! To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of my retirement have been greatly exaggerated. And as to Riptide editorial policy, we have never banned snark; it is our lifeblood. But we do try to be fair and balanced — like a Fox.)

Peter Loeb:

Thank you for sharing where the data you referenced previously came from. I did not know the Bureau of Transportation Statistics published this. I also do not know how they gathered the data used to derive this graphic. I do know how our traffic engineer created his data. He used traffic counting devices at key locations to do an actual physical data count. This is data that was physically collected and serves as the basis for his study.

I would place more stock in data collected locally than something created by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics in an unknown manner.

Peter George:

In your last posting, you make a good point about the new road alignment pressuring the houses. I have been speaking with the people who live on that side of the street and they have pointed this out to me. We need to take another look at street alignment and push the street in the other direction where there are far fewer homes.

As for a parking study, I do not see the need. If we get the street properly aligned, we will not be taking away parking spaces. Parking on one side of the street will remain the same as before. We will not be using the parking ourselves so we will not be adding to the parking demand. In fact, by building a parking lot in the middle of our new neighborhood in front of the community center near the start of the mountain biking trails at the top of the hill, we expect to pull people who park to ride the trails off Higgins Way and Adobe Drive. This will relieve parking demand on these streets.

We do not have an estimated evacuation time for the new neighborhood in case of a wildfire. It would depend very much on where the fire occurred and how aggressive the fire was. Our answer to the wildfire risk is to use best forestry practices to minimize the risk by clearing out kindling on the forest floor, removing dead trees, cutting fire breaks along the perimeter of the property, initiating a progressive program to plant native trees to replace the Eucalyptus over time, having a city standard road that emergency vehicles can use to get to the top of the hill to fight the fire, and constructing homes with sprinkling systems. The loop road itself and the new hiking and biking trails will create fire breaks within the property. When you add it up, this list of measures will dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, the risk of wildfire.

Another quick but important point, John. Your plans to widen Higgins (e.g., your "SHEET 48.pdf" and many others) clearly leave too little room for the folks on the north side of Higgins to park in front of their garages as they do now (even a casual observation reveals that many of the residents currently park this way). So you are demonstrably taking away that parking and thus adding yet more stressors to the parking on Higgins. I am truly baffled as to why you think a parking study is unnecessary. Everything I see here points to a parking nightmare along Higgins (and by extension Adobe) as soon as the "Woods" development starts.

Why not do a study and prove me wrong? The development can clearly afford it and you clearly believe that the results will speak in your favor. Baffled, I am, as to why we are still arguing about this when a simple cheap (by your standards) report could lay it to rest? Please publish it here once it's done, thanks.

Also, what is the estimated evacuation time for 125 car-dependent households + existing residents down Higgins in case of a wildfire? Sadly, I did not see an all-too-necessary report on that either. Please provide link. Many thanks.

"[The traffic engineer] does not know where you got your trip general ideas, but they are not grounded in traffic engineering best practices." The trip generation estimate comes from the United States Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The map linked at this Bureau site shows the average weekday household vehicle trips by U.S. Census Tract per day, as estimated in Local Area Transportation Characteristics by Household dataset. For the Pacifica area, the map shows an estimate of 5-6 weekday household vehicle trips per day.

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